Ingredients from LaBudde Group in Crookston are feeding all kinds of world-class racehorses

    When Justify crossed the finish line first in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, he was powered in part by food that came from right here in Crookston.

    Richard Erickson of LaBudde Group located on Crookston’s south end, at 2110 South Main, tells the Times that LaBudde’s connection to winning Derby horses goes back well beyond the 2018 race. LaBudde has provided ingredients for the feeding of eight of the past 10 Derby winners, he said, including the most recent Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah in 2015.

   In Saturday’s race seven of the 20 horses competing ate feed with ties to LaBudde in Crookston, Erickson said.

    “With some changes we have done in our organization, our facility in Crookston is now doing a portion of that work and providing specially processed shredded beet pulp for the feed ration of seven of the 20 starters.” Those seven horses included not only the winner, Justified, but also the second place finisher, Good Magic.

    Erickson said the world’s best racehorses eat differently than pleasure horses. “A highly digestive fiber is an extremely important part of a horse athlete’s diet, and this is where shredded beet pulp comes in,” he explained. “It has one of the highest fiber digestibility levels of any feed item. Of course, beet pulp is just a portion of the diet, as they still need other ingredients to provide energy and protein.”

    Superior racing horses are fed high-quality diets long before they line up at places like Churchill Downs, however, Erickson said. Training for horses that show potential starts more than a year before the Derby, with training sites across the country. He compares it to a college athlete trying to make the pros. “As the trainers are trying to maximize the performance of each of these horses in training, most of them are receiving shredded beet pulp,” he said. “In a typical year we have been handling approximately 35,000 tons of shreds in Michigan. We are expecting to handle about 8,000 tons of these specialized bulk shreds in Crookston this year and build up from there.”

    While he didn’t want to divulge what such high-quality shredded beet pulp feed might cost, Erickson said it costs significantly more for a “world-class” horse than a normal horse. “I can say that the specially processed shredded beet pulp we handle nets the beet growers in the area approximately twice as much per ton than if it were shipped as pellets to the regular feed market.”

    The shredded beet pulp is provided by Midwest Agri-Commodities and comes directly from the sugar beet factories in the region, Erickson continued, so the processing and handling are providing a noticeable benefit to sugar beet growers in the region.

LaBudde Group’s story

    LaBudde Group was started in 1907 to deal with the by-products of the beer business in Milwaukee. Its current headquarters is in Cedarburg, Wisc., just north of Milwaukee.

    “Although we still do quite a bit of brewery by-products, we describe what we do today as a more general handling of ‘food by-products,’” Erickson explained.

     LaBudde Group first had a presence in Crookston just over 20 years ago in a partnership arrangement with Midwest Agri-Commodities, the by-product marketing arm of American Crystal Sugar, to store and market bagged beet pulp from the Crookston American Crystal factory.  Approximately 15 years ago, LaBudde Group and Midwest Agri developed another agreement to process shredded beet pulp at one of our Michigan locations, he said.  

    “This product was targeted for the ‘high end’ horse feed manufacturers and has become very popular,” Erickson said.

    Due to limited supply in Michigan, LaBudde and Midwest Agri have now come to a long-term agreement whereby LaBudde will be doing this exact process in Crookston. This processing got underway locally between Thanksgiving and Christmas of last year.

    Although shredded beet pulp is a high percentage of the work we do in Crookston, overall for LaBudde it is only about 5-10 percent of its work, he said. “Approximately 50 percent of our overall company sales are to pet food manufacturers, 30 percent to large dairies, 10 percent to horse feed manufacturers, and the rest to miscellaneous such as mink, poultry, llamas, etc.,” Erickson added.

    He adds that the 2018 Derby’s “Show” horse, third place finisher Audible, also ate a diet including shredded beet pulp, but it came from LaBudde’s Michigan location, not Crookston.

    Frank Caputo manages LaBudde Group’s Crookston facility.